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A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support – COVID-19

Last updated: 18 May 2020 10:40

This directory has been designed to help you keep track of new changes being introduced to the benefits system as a result of the coronavirus.

We hope that this provides a useful source of reference and reassurance, as we aim to bring together a summary of the latest updates in as timely a way as possible. For further guidance relating to COVID-19, visit this page.

 

Accessible information

If you have accessibility needs or care for someone who has, you can get support with claiming benefits and pensions. Please see this guidance for further information.


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Assessments

Face-to-face assessments for disability benefits have been put on hold for three months (from 17 March) and all appointments at benefits offices and job centres have been suspended. You will not be penalised if your appointment has been postponed.

Benefit reviews and reassessments were also put on hold for three months from 24 March 2020. See this Gov.uk page to read more.

What are the new Care Act easements, created under the Coronavirus Act 2020?

The government has introduced some changes to the Care Act (2014) on a temporary basis and only to be applied when absolutely essential. They are designed to help local authorities if their workforce is significantly reduced or the demand on social care increases to the point where they are forced to alter or prioritise their services.

For carers, this still means that local authorities must respond to requests for care and support, but if your local authority has decided to “switch on” these easements, detailed assessments may not be carried out as before. If you’re asking for a Needs Assessment for the person you care for or a Carer's Assessment for yourself, we would suggest asking if there are any delays or additional information you need to be aware of, and discussing any concerns you have.

All assessments and reviews must be followed up and completed in full once the easements end. People will not currently have to undergo a financial assessment but may be charged retrospectively for any care and support received during this period.

For more details, refer to the government’s guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to the Care Act 2014.
 


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Attendance Allowance

If you are already receiving Attendance Allowance, you will continue to do so throughout the Covid-19 period. For rates, see our Attendance Allowance page. You can still apply if you’re eligible.

For three months (from 24 March), there will be no reviews or reassessments.


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Carer's Allowance

You will continue to receive Carer’s Allowance if you are already claiming this. For details of rates and to find out whether you’re eligible to claim, see our Carer’s Allowance page

Note that you can only claim this benefit if someone you’re looking after is already receiving a qualifying disability benefit. Find out more on our main page.

COVID-19 related changes

You will still be entitled to receive Carer's Allowance if you have a temporary break from caring because you, or those you care for, get coronavirus or you have to self-isolate because of it. 

In addition, the government has confirmed that providing ‘emotional support’ will count towards the 35 hours needed to claim the benefit. This also applies to carers who live in a different household from someone they care for, where contact is only possible through the form of emotional support provided via the telephone and social media.

These measures (introduced on 30 March) apply whether or not you’re making a new claim or already claiming Carer’s Allowance.


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Council Tax/rate relief

Help with your Council Tax bill

In England, the government has pledged support for Council Tax payers who are on a low income and has announced the Council Tax COVID-19 hardship fund 2020-21.

If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, you could get in touch with your local authority or trust (in Northern Ireland) to see if they can allow you to defer payments or to see if they can offer any form of discount or support to help.

See our main Help with Council Tax/ rate relief page to find out about your rights and for more ideas for saving money.

In light of COVID-19, the government has pledged support for renters through increases in Housing Benefit and Universal Credit. See ‘Housing Support’.


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Debt worries

(UK wide) If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender. If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score. See our Help with debt page for other useful sources of support.

To help those on a low income at this time, the Department of Work and Pensions has also put a halt on recovering overpayments of benefits for three months. This not only includes benefit overpayments, but also tax credit debts and social fund loans. You can read more in this Gov.uk press release.

TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People have launched a new coronavirus support service to help those who are vulnerable and struggling with tax problems to claim the support they are now entitled to. Their helpline is available Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.

(Please note that the Hardship fund is available in England only). If you think you may need financial support from your local authority in England, you may be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund. Most of this funding will be used to provide more Council Tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities has put in place a non-repayable grant payment programme to assist those in financial difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate. Read more on the nidirect.gov.uk page. 


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Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If you’re already receiving DLA, you should continue to be paid this as before. For details about the benefit and rates, see our Disability Living Allowance page. You can still apply if you think you’re eligible.

Face-to-face assessments were suspended from 17 March. Reviews and reassessments were also put on hold for three months from 24 March.


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End of life planning/bereavement

We have collated some guidance to help you prepare for and get through difficult times. With the restrictions of social distancing and lockdown measures in place, we can understand that it must feel twice as hard. 

There is a lot to take on board both emotionally and on a practical level, especially during the outbreak so we have tried to break everything down into manageable steps. 

What is advance care planning? Read our guidance.

I want to find out more about how I deal with grief. See our guidance.

Practical matters – what needs to be done following a death? Read our guidance.

Registering the death – what happens now? Read our guidance.

What needs to be considered when arranging a funeral? See our guidance.


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Hospitals - preparing and leaving

You may have been rapidly thrown into the role of caring for someone and feel underprepared. Or perhaps the needs of someone you have cared for over time, have suddenly changed. Uncertainty about what to do and how to cope can be a big source of anxiety.

Our planning for emergencies page offers tips on how to relieve these worries by preparing for the unexpected, such as a sudden visit to hospital. Once there, the ward staff should help patients communicate with those they are close to by phone or video, where possible. Providing permission and related information as part of a documented plan in advance may be useful. For example, you could indicate who you would like to be kept informed as key contacts.

Our guidance can also help you prepare for someone you care for coming out of hospital. Knowing what questions to ask and what to expect can help you both cope with any change of circumstances. 

Hospital discharge to care homes

All care home residents and social care staff with COVID-19 symptoms are now being tested, the government announced on 15 April. This also means that all patients who are discharged from hospital will be tested, as a matter of course, before going into care homes. The government’s COVID-19 social care action plan (released 15 April) provides more details. Also see our response.


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Housing support

Housing Benefit will be increased from 6 April. From April, an extra £1 billion over one year across the UK is to be allocated to help private renters, increasing Local Housing Allowance rates (to pay for at least 30% of average rents in all areas of the UK). See the latest government guidance.

Renting

If you are a tenant, you are still liable for your rent and should pay this as usual. If you are struggling to pay this, support is available and new measures mean that any landlord must provide three months’ notice if they wish to end the tenancy. For more details see this Gov.uk page.

Mortgages

If you are experiencing financial difficulties meeting your mortgage repayments because of COVID-19, you may be entitled to a mortgage holiday for three months. See this Gov.uk page for more details.

Also see ‘Council Tax/ Rate Relief’ in this directory.


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Other benefits (incl. legacy benefits)

Legacy benefits (being gradually replaced by Universal Credit) include Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. These should continue to be paid during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Housing Benefit will be increased. In addition Working Tax Credit will be increased by £1040 for the next 12 months.

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance.


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Overpayments

The government has decided to stop recovering overpayments for three months during this period. This includes benefit overpayments, tax credit debts or social fund loans. Although most deductions will be stopped automatically, if you have a standing order set up with your bank, you will need to contact them to stop the payments. Read more in this Gov.uk press release.


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Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

If you’re already receiving PIP, you should continue to be paid this as before. For details about the benefit and rates, see our Personal Independence Payment page.

Face-to-face assessments were suspended from 17 March. Reviews and reassessments were also put on hold for three months from 24 March.


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Self-employment

If you’re self-employed, you may be able to apply for a taxable grant that will cover 80% of your self-employment trading profit – up to £2500 per month. This only relates to those self-employed whose trading profits are less than £50,000 and who make more than half of their total income from self-employment. See this Gov.uk page for more details.

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance.

If you currently claim Universal Credit as a self-employed person, or need to make a new claim (as someone who is self-employed), the rules around the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily removed for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. See 'Universal Credit' in this index for more details.

TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People have launched a new coronavirus support service to help those who are vulnerable and struggling with tax problems to claim the support they are now entitled to. Their helpline is available Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.


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Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

During this period, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be paid from the first day of sickness absence, rather than the fourth day, for people who have the coronavirus (COVID-19) or have to self-isolate.

SSP has been extended to cover people caring for those within the same household who display coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms and have been told to self-isolate.

You can read more about this here. See our Working and caring section for more guidance if you are balancing work with caring.


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Universal Credit

You will continue to receive Universal Credit if already claiming this benefit. Find out more about the benefit and its rates on our Universal Credit page.

If you’re claiming this for the first time, you will have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, so don’t delay making a claim. You can make a claim for an advance payment while you are waiting for your Universal Credit payment.

The standard rate in Universal Credit and Tax Credits will be increased by £20 a week for one year from 6 April 2020. This means you could be up to £1040 better off. For further details, see the latest updates on the Gov.uk website.

If you currently claim Universal Credit as a self-employed person, or make a new claim (as someone who is self-employed), the rules around the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily removed for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you are eligible to claim Universal Credit, and have COVID-19 or need to self-isolate, you can make a claim online without needing to attend an appointment at a Jobcentre Plus. For more information, see this Gov.uk page.


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